As we move into 2016, there is much to celebrate in the movement to avoid catastrophic climate disruption: a Clean Power Plan has been put in place in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline. suspended arctic drilling leases, and will not renew existing leases; the Paris Climate Summit led to greater global awareness and commitment to address climate change more aggressively; and the global climate movement is reaching a point of critical mass and power that cannot be ignored. None of this is enough, and there is much more to be done to even come close to the action and systemic change necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change; but it is still cause to celebrate and to renew our commitment for relentless action to keep moving towards climate justice.
That is the good news. The bad news is that the United States is potentially one election away from erasing all of this progress – one election away from reversing the Keystone XL decision, one election away from opening the arctic and numerous other places to new drilling, one election away from dismantling the Clean Power Plan, one election away from turning away from the commitments we made in Paris, one election away from handing the fossil fuel industry in the United States almost unlimited power over U.S. energy policy and policies related to climate change. The fossil fuel companies have trillions of dollars of future profits at stake, and they will do everything in their power to protect those profits, even at the expense of the planet. Those who care about climate justice must vote in 2016. It is not an option. Not voting is in effect voting for climate injustice and voting against our last best chance to avoid the worst of global climate change. Following the two warmest years on record (2014 was number 2 and 2015 will be number 1) and with 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurring in the 21st Century, we are in decade zero when it comes to avoiding catastrophic climate change. The 2016 elections are the most important elections in the history of humankind because a livable climate is in the balance. This coming year, those of us in the United States must vote as if the planet and a flourishing human community depend on it, because they do.
Graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.